tv Focus on Europe PBS October 17, 2015 6:00pm-6:31pm PDT
host: a very warm welcome to "focus on europe" -- bringing you the individual stories behind the headlines. my name's christopher springate. here's what's coming up on this edition of the program. the fresh new recruits restoring trust in ukraine's police force. the controversial debate over britain's house of lords. and why you have to climb the alps to live the european dream. for people in ukraine, stumbling across a police officer used to spell bad news: shaking off the attentions of the ill-tempered "militsya" usually involved slipping them a bundle of banknotes.
but times are changing on the streets of the capital, kiev. instead of the soviet-era "militsya," you're now more likely to meet the "politsya". 2000 freshly-recruited police officers, 500 of them women -- young, smart and carefully trained. as part of ukraine's headlong rush towards modernization, their mission is to re-establish trust in the police force. in a country still plagued by widespread corruption and violence. >> oiga kot earned a degree in business administration -- but her new job involves a different kind of management. in the spring she joined , ukraine's newly reformed police force -- a further departure from the country's soviet-era legacy. although some people remain skeptical. olga kot: i don't say they're all are like that, but a certain percentage of people don't want to change anything. they want to live the way they've always lived, they are fine with it.
>> generally speaking, however, the response on the street is positive. behind the scenes, however, resistance from the old guard is never far away. we're initially denied entry to the police academy despite the fact that our visit was pre-arranged. but after a phone call or two, we're allowed in. the freshly-renovated building is now bright, warm and inviting -- instead of the previous dreary quarters citizens dreaded. 18 months after the anti-government protests and revolution, the reformed police force has become a visible manifestation of the new era in ukraine. 2,000 new officers have been hired, a quarter of them female. olga kot: we knew that a very big percentage of people would support us, but we didn't think
it would be so big and that they would be so positive about it. we're getting a lot of help from society at large. >> in her spare time -- in this case prior to a night shift -- she attends extra training courses. basic training took just three months. now the recruits are being given advanced instruction in between shifts. medical doctor anatoliy viyeskyy has volunteered to teach for free as part of the fast-track scheme. anatoliy viyeskiy, physician: they are so different. to some extent, they look to me like dissidents for a post-soviet situation, because they carry a totally new -- different attitude to people. >> the new police officers also undergo psychological training, and do not seem to be lacking in
conviction or commitment. olga and her colleagues are issued firearms and patrol gear. they believe in the new ukraine. olga kot: i think the revolution played its role here. because we spent a lot of time in the maidan. i can't even go there now, because of the memories of what happened there. back then we wanted to change the country, and i wanted to continue that. >> over a hundred people were killed in the protests in the maidan in early 2014, as civilians fought running battles with the much-feared "berkut" riot police. in the end, the officers shot at demonstrators with live ammunition. olga kot never wants to see scenes like that again. after a fitness test, she finally heads out for her night
shift. olga and her fellow-officers have been instructed to keep their flashing blue lights on when out they're on patrol -- to reassure citizens that the police are there to help. their first assignment is to pacify a dispute between neighbors. on the scene, they find a woman who is clearly inebriated and out of control. olga and her partner reach for their handcuffs. as hoped, that gesture is enough to calm the woman down. olga kot: her neighbor didn't file a complaint, so we have no grounds for detaining her. plus, there was her husband who said he would take her home. it's all calmed down. >> de-escalation in one of kyev's many concrete housing projects.
and then they get a new assignment -- an abandoned luxury car. the first thing olga notices is that the parking permit expired over a year ago -- during the maidan revolution! olga kot: the money for high-end cars usually comes from graft. and corruption in our country, as you know, is quite widespread. that's what we're fighting against. >> aside from speculation, there's little they can do, because the license plate number does not show up in their database -- which is currently under construction. all in a night's work for the newly-fledged police force now patrolling the capital of the new ukraine. host: relations between neighbors can often be testy, and that certainly applies germany and switzerland. the two countries have clashed over banking secrecy - and the next skirmish is likely to be over assisted suicide.
in switzerland, it is legal. in germany, there are serious moves to make it illegal. the german parliament will soon be debating a law that will impose jail sentences on companies or individuals who "offer or mediate" assisted suicide -- even if they're based in switzerland. we travelled just across the border, to get the views of those affected. >> walter fesenbeckh is a volunteer counselor for people planning an assisted suicide. originally from germany, walter now lives in switzerland. living here has changed his view of the issue. walter fesenbeckh: when people here in switzerland look at germany, it's very hard to understand why germany doesn't allow or even wants to prohibit its citizens from making their own decisions about how they want to die. >> walter is paying a visit to a "patient" in the canton of zurich. that's what he calls the people he counsels.
he's known helga herk for years. she's 77 years old, and has been suffering from pain, paralysis, and seizures for 17 years. helga herk: my neighbors know that when they hear me scream that means i'm in pain. , now my bladder is done for, and i have to wear diapers all the time. but the main reason is that i can no longer walk. >> now helga wants to sign the statement of intent to commit assisted suicide. her husband who doesn't want to appear on camera and her children are present. helga herk: two days ago, my son started to rebel. i've said it's time, and that this is what i want. maybe in two months, maybe in six. but at some point, i'll want to go through with it.
walter fesenbeckh: i won't ask, and the initiative will have to come from you. >> over the past year, walter has assisted 12 people who wanted to commit suicide. the pensioner provides end-of-life care as a volunteer for exit, a society that helps people with terminal or severe and untreatable illnesses who wish to take their own lives. in switzerland this is legally permitted, and most swiss support the availability of assisted suicide. walter fesenbeckh: our supreme court has stated that every individual has the right to take this path. the european convention on human rights also says this is an individual right. so we have a ruling from our highest court, the only such ruling in the world. >> but it's very different in germany. the german parliament, the bundestag, plans to pass a new law this fall.
most experts believe it will criminalize the kind of assisted-suicide mediation that walter provides -- even though the majority of germans support it. erika preisig believes a law like this would be a disaster. she also accompanies people who wish to commit assisted suicide, many of them germans. the proposed law would make her assistance illegal. erika preisig: i couldn't go to germany and have those conversations. under some draft versions, even talking on the phone would be punishable. i would probably still do that, out of compassion. but i couldn't go to germany anymore, not even as a tourist. it would be too risky. >> if germany bans assisted suicide, the number of people who go to switzerland for that purpose might also increase. roger kusch from a german assisted-suicide organization is
expanding his offices in switzerland and looking for a room where he can help germans who want to die. roger kusch: every time we come to zurich, we can tell that switzerland has genuine tolerance, respect for freedom, and positive support for an organization like ours. in germany, by contrast, it's all much more onerous. >> if assisted suicide were not an option, helga herk says she'd have only one choice. helga herk: i would go up to one of my favorite spots, on a mountain. i'd sit there and stop eating. you die pretty quickly doing that. >> like many others, she believes strongly in the right to make decisions about her own life -- to the very end. host: so, the personal story there of a woman who wants to make her own decision about when
she should die. but what do you think? should we be free to choose, and is it ok for one nations laws to affect the people of another nation? do send us your comments. as always, youll find me on twitter: @springontheroad. britain's house of lords is a symbol of its somewhat quirky love of tradition: a second chamber of parliament filled with stuffy old gentlemen, falling gently asleep during each other's long speeches. that's one way of looking at it, but there is also this. despite its image as an undemocratic institution that merely rubber-stamps government policy, the house of lords is actually rather independent. prime minister david cameron lost 10 votes there since mays general election, forcing him to compromise. a recent scandal however has damaged the institution's image. >> this is manderston house, located in southeastern scotland. a noble residence indeed. the current owner is the fourth baron palmer. in person, and on canvas.
he's a member of britain's house of lords. palmer is proud of his home, which he inherited. lord palmer: i enjoy living here. i get immense enjoyment out of giving pleasure to the people and i may have mentioned earlier that i always try and get through the house at least once a day when i'm here. >> lord palmer also spends a lot of time in london. here, he's putting on the heavy robes that the lords are required to wear at official ceremonies. his father and grandfather were also lords. lord palmer: it rather depends what your view of tradition is. i mean, i do happen to be a traditionalist and i think it's rather nice holding on to various traditions that have gone down through the centuries. >> the members of the house of lords have either inherited their seats, or were appointed by the prime minister. and they're appointed for life. critics say that's not democratic.
>> the people who are making decisions; making up the laws of the land; affect each and every one of us every day; should be elected by the british people. and that's why we're campaigning to replace the appointed house of lords with an elected second chamber. >> no british government has yet addressed this proposal. but some governments have tried to reduce the lords' influence. in 1999, prime minister tony blair sharply reduced the number of hereditary peers. the current prime minister, david cameron, promised reform. >> we've been discussing this issue for a hundred years and it really is time to make progress. and the truth of the matter is this, there are opponents of lords reform in every party. >> that includes cameron's own conservatives. but instead of reducing the size of the house of lords, and making it more democratic this , august, cameron appointed 45 new lords. most of them are aligned with the conservatives.
the house of lords now has more than 800 members. they include former government ministers, and hereditary peers. but some lords do favor reforms. >> there should perhaps be a moratorium on further appointments to this house until sensible measures are agreed to reduce the size of the house. >> rennard's proposals caused a stir, but did not receive much support. he's a liberal democrat who's been in the house of lords for 16 years. he thinks the house is too big, and undemocratic. >> there are only going to be 600 in the future. so a membership of the house of lords of 800 plus does seem ridiculous. it does mean that there's little space in the chamber for us to sit and a shortage of offices. >> most of the lords receive no salary. they do receive an allowance of up to 300 pounds a day when the house is in session. more than half the members are over 70. and there are occasional incidents of questionable behavior by individual lords.
this summer, a video surfaced that showed lord sewell consorting with prostitutes, and allegedly snorting cocaine. he later resigned from the lords, amid renewed calls for reform. >> it's completely out of control and we've just unearthed new figures, showing the enormous and spiraling cost of the house of lords. at the same time, we've also exposed some really worrying evidence that many, many peers are claiming expenses and allowances, even though they're not playing a full part in the legislative life of the chamber. >> the house of lords is the second largest parliamentary chamber in the world. only the chinese people's congress is larger. and critics say that the lords voting for reforms would be like turkeys voting for christmas. >> i'm not optimistic about a lot of progress in a short period of time. but i do think the proposal at the moment for all the parties to sit together in a constitutional convention; to look at the federal structure of the united kingdom; to learn
lessons perhaps from germany. >> but is that a realistic possibility? lord palmer says the house of lords should stay just as it is. lord palmer: it is quite extraordinary. the whole thing comes back to the fact that there will never be party consensus on how the best way to reform the house of lords is. >> lord palmer heads back to his parliamentary seat -- not because he was elected to it, but because he inherited it from his father. is this really an example of modern european democracy? host: up to migrants are 10,000 entering germany every day, the german media are reporting the final figure at the end of the year may be as high as million. 1.5 and with asylum-seeker homes bursting at the seams, many germans are now asking: how many can we tak in? and how can we successfully integrate everyone into german society? well, to find out how thats working, we caught up with one syrian woman who arrived in germany nine months ago.
>> this syrian refugee is shopping at a german street market. manar hrdeen came to germany about nine months ago. shopping is still something of an adventure for her. margret debrus, a retiree, is helping manar and other refugees with the transition to a new life. she teaches them german, and shows them how to get around. >> we go with them when they have to meet with the authorities, or see a doctor. and we do what we can to help them find their way. >> manar and her husband omar fled syria with their five children. now, a catholic parish in bonn is looking after them. they want to make a fresh start in germany.
the parish found omar a part-time job as a gardener. manar says the family just wants to start living a normal life again. >> my children, my husband and i just want to live in peace. i want my children to go to school. i want them to learn and play in peace. >> it's likely that the german authorities will grant the family asylum. immigration officials tend to quickly process asylum claims by syrian citizens. margret debrus says that at the end of world war two, germany had its own refugee crisis -- as millions of people fled their homes. >> a lot of older people in our parish came from east prussia and the eastern territories. they were refugees, fleeing a war zone. when they arrived here, the city had been destroyed.
times were tough. they really had to fight for survival. and i've noticed these older people really give the syrians a warm welcome. >> the latest estimates say that more than a million refugees are expected to arrive in germany this year. more and more politicians are calling for restrictions on the number of refugees, and perhaps even sealing the country's borders. margret says that's unacceptable. she believes germany should be a refuge for those in need. >> if people just stick their heads in the sand, and think only of themselves, we're not going to be able to deal with this situation effectively. but if we take a long-term view, and think about what these people have gone through, then we'll make it. >> the hredeens are trying to make it, too. it'll take time for them to get used to living in a foreign country. but others have done it, and they probably will, too.
host: well the flow of , asylum-seekers towards europe is unbroken. and thats prompted several nations to re-introduce border controls, in a bid to stem that flow somewhat. the re-introduction of border controls is worrying some observers. they fear it might endanger the european unions schengen agreement, a treaty signed 30 years ago that allows e.u. citizens to move freely across borders. so is that dream of free movement slowly dying? to find out more, we caught up with a german journalist who's been crossing alpine borders on foot. at high altitudes, it seems, european unity is alive and kicking. >> it's a journey across mountains you can't miss -- and borders that are invisible. jörg wunram is in the mont-blanc massif straddling the french-italian alps. for this part of his journey , he's taking a ride via cable car. but he's already covered over 900 kilometers on foot on his
six-nation trek from slovenia to monaco. jörg wunram: there are no borders here. i haven't seen one passport control. except when i arrived in switzerland i had to change some swiss francs. that was the only reminder of the old europe. >> otherwise, this is a europe experienced every day by residents of the border regions. for the last 10 years, max has been working as a cleaner for a french cable-car operator. he hails from a neighboring italian valley, but found it hard to get a decent job in the tourism industry over there. >> in italy i can only get seasonal jobs -- short-term contracts, and low wages. here in france, i have a proper contract and work all year long.
>> that's one of many positive cross-border stories that jörg wunram has heard on his alpine expedition. mountain guide jean takes him on a tour of a special kind -- crossing the border from italy back to france along a glacier. that means traversing a 400-meter-thick sheet of ice. mont-blanc -- or "monte bianco" as it's known in italy -- is tricky terrain indeed. many climbers overestimate their abilities and underestimate the risks. jörg is now off to the french ski resort of chamonix to hear the story of two mountain rescue workers. at rescue headquarters, he meets frenchman jean baptiste and his italian colleague adriano. their two teams have being working in tandem for years --
joining forces to save lives. >> when an emergency call comes in, it's time and cooperation that matter -- not borders and nationalities. adriano favre: there's no brussels here. european or geopolitical interests and laws are irrelevant. here, it's the mountain that's in charge -- and we have to adapt. >> which also means coping with tragedies and traumas. on this rescue mission, all the team could salvage were the bodies of six climbers. but the most recent joint effort of the two did save a person's life. jean-baptiste estachy: we found this italian man in a crevasse in the morning. after a whole night out there, he was alive and in pretty good health. he was incredibly lucky.
>> our roving reporter is happy to embark on the final stage of his odyssey. jörg wunram: this is where i leave the really high mountains. italy's just around the corner. then i'm off to france, and then monaco, where i'm going to dive into the mediterranean. >> 400 kilometers left for his feet to carry him across a europe without borders. host: thats it for this week from all of us here "focus on europe." we will be back next week. do send us your thoughts and comments on any of our reports. it's always enriching to get your perspectives. for now, thanks for watching and see you soon. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
steves: a selection of ferries make the 50-mile crossing between helsinki and tallinn nearly hourly. because of the ease of this delightful two-hour cruise and the variety a quick trip over to estonia adds to your nordic travels, pairing helsinki and tallinn is a natural. stepping off the boat in tallinn, the capital of estonia, you feel you've traveled a long way culturally from finland.
its a mix of east and west. tallinn's nordic lutheran culture and language connect it with stockholm and helsinki, but two centuries of czarist russian rule and nearly 50 years as part of the soviet union have blended in a distinctly russian flavor. fins and estonians share a similar history. first, swedish domination, then russian. then independence after world war i. until 1940, the estonians were about as affluent as the fins, but then estonia was gobbled up by an expanding soviet empire and spent the decades after world war ii under communism. when the ussr fell, estonia regained its freedom, and in 2004, it joined the european union. tallinn has modernized at an astounding rate since the fall of the soviet union. its business district shines with the same glass and steel gleam you'll find in any modern city. yet nearby are the rugged and fully intact medieval walls,
and the town within these ramparts has a beautifully preserved old-world ambiance. among medieval cities in the north of europe, none are as well preserved as tallinn. the town hall square was a marketplace through the centuries. its fine old buildings are a reminder that tallinn was once an important medieval trading center. today it's a touristy scene, full of people just having fun. through the season, each midday, cruise-ship groups congest the center as they blitz the town in the care of local guides. like many tourist zones, tallinn's is a commercial gauntlet. here there's a hokey torture museum, strolling russian dolls, medieval theme restaurants complete with touts, and enthusiastic hawkers of ye olde taste treats. woman: [ laughs ] steves: but just a couple blocks away is, for me, the real attraction of tallinn -- workaday locals
enjoying real freedom and better economic times. still-ramshackle courtyards host inviting cafés. bistros serve organic cuisine in a chic patina of old-world-meets new. and just outside the walls, it seems there's no tourism at all. under towering ramparts, the former moat is now a park, perfect for a warm afternoon stroll.